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In British Columbia, we know all too well the severity of the toxic drug crisis. On April 14th, 2016, it was deemed a public health emergency in British Columbia. Since this time, tragically, more than 14,000 British Columbians have died from accidental overdose.

In recognition of the magnitude of this crisis, police leaders in British Columbia supported decriminalization and taking a medically led approach to substance use. Police agreed that people should not be criminalized as a result of their personal drug use. We are also acutely aware of the adverse impacts of illicit drugs in our rural and Indigenous communities.

However, as police leaders, we were unequivocal about the need to ensure that there were not unintended impacts on community safety and well-being as a result of decriminalization, especially for youth. The British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) clearly identified some of those potential consequences prior to the submission of the exemption request.  These serious concerns included, but were not limited to, public consumption, consumption in licensed establishments (and other spaces where the public had access) and driving-related concerns.

Today, the BCACP welcomes the announcement by the Province to address public drug consumption and increase health resources throughout the province.  As advocates for community safety and well-being, the BCACP has long emphasized the need to address public drug use without stigmatizing individuals solely by virtue of their personal drug use and instead provide pathways to health.

Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson, President of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP), emphasized, “Our goal has always been to foster safe and welcoming communities across British Columbia. We firmly believe that individuals living with addiction should receive support and resources rather than punitive measures. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction to ensure our communities remain safe and inclusive.”

The BCACP has been a vocal proponent for policies that balance harm reduction with community safety. Recognizing the concerns voiced by communities, business leaders, and individuals regarding public drug consumption, the BCACP has actively engaged in advocating for measures to address these issues effectively.

“We have heard loud and clear from various stakeholders about the challenges posed by public drug consumption, especially in areas frequented by children, youth, and families,” Deputy Chief Wilson stated.

“The BCACP welcomes restrictions on the use of illicit drugs in public spaces. This aligns with our commitment to safeguarding the well-being of all community members as it provides our membership with the tools to effectively do their job. However, we want to be clear that police in British Columbia do not wish to criminalize individuals who use drugs.”

The BCACP remains committed to collaborating with government agencies, community organizations, and stakeholders to implement comprehensive strategies that address substance use issues while prioritizing public safety and harm reduction.

Senior police leaders recognize and support the need to balance the rights, needs and well-being of all people.  Decriminalization, by its very nature, is grounded in a respect for the rights of people who use drugs and in a genuine concern for the acute risk that arises due to the toxicity of the illicit drug supply.

We look forward to identifying next steps to address these critical public safety issues.


Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson

President, BC Association of Chiefs of Police